News, Nuggets & Longreads 8 July 2017: London Fields, St Ives, Anywhere

Various yellow and orange beer mats.

Here’s all the beer writing and news from the past seven days that’s grabbed our attention, from brewery takeovers to the (literal) essence of craft beer.

First, a bit of beer blog­ging admin: the British Guild of Beer Writ­ers has launched its annu­al awards. If you’re a blog­ger, as opposed to a pro­fes­sion­al or semi-pro writer who hap­pens to have a blog on the side, do con­sid­er enter­ing in the Cit­i­zen Com­mu­ni­ca­tor cat­e­go­ry.

A sign points to London Fields Brewery.
‘Wall’ by Matt Gib­son from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

The big news of the week was that, hav­ing enig­mat­i­cal­ly trailed such a pur­chase a few months ago, Carls­berg has just acquired a UK craft brew­ery: the trou­bled, moral­ly murky, unloved Lon­don Fields. We did­n’t have time to pro­duce any­thing sub­stan­tial about this (just a Tweet) but if we had, we’d have writ­ten some­thing much like this from Richard Tay­lor at the Beer­cast:

From their Hack­ney base… the Danes will have a Lon­don-cen­tric brand to push across the coun­try and beyond. And the fact that it has the city name in the brew­ery title is an added bonus… Look­ing at some of the tweets from beer indus­try peo­ple – par­tic­u­lar­ly those based in Lon­don – was an almighty WTF moment. Of all the brands to acquire, why pick one with so lit­tle pub­lic recog­ni­tion and so much indus­try resent­ment? The con­tin­u­al atti­tude and actions of the founders have black­ened the name of Lon­don Fields with­in the beer com­mu­ni­ty – but, as we’ve all seen since time began, the big lager boys don’t real­ly care for that any­way. It’s the bot­tom line that mat­ters, and in their eyes, pick­ing up Lon­don Fields for even £4m is peanuts com­pared with what they would have to fork out for oth­er alter­na­tives.

The bar at Beer & Bird.

Those of you head­ing down to Corn­wall on hol­i­day this sum­mer might find the lat­est post at Pints and Pubs use­ful: it’s an extreme­ly com­pre­hen­sive run down of the pubs of St Ives. It includes news of an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment in the form of a bar that has spun off from the town’s impres­sive spe­cial­ist off-licence, John’s:

The most recent addi­tion to the beer scene in St Ives, next door to the Cas­tle Inn… It has eas­i­ly the most exten­sive bot­tle and can list of any of the St Ives pubs, but also a decent selec­tion of draught, with three cask and five keg when vis­it­ed – we had good pints of Fire­brand Equinot and Black Flag Sim­coe Amar­il­lo Pale.

Sign: "Traditional Real Ales".

Reflect­ing on the dif­fer­ence between Real Ale and Craft Beer as sub­cul­tures Pub Cur­mud­geon makes an inter­est­ing sug­ges­tion with ref­er­ence to a wider divi­sion in post-Brex­it Britain:

There’s obvi­ous­ly a big area of over­lap, as after all both are broad­ly about ‘qual­i­ty beer’, but the well­springs of sen­ti­ment from which real ale and craft grow are essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent things. One is, at heart, about tra­di­tion and roots, the oth­er about moder­ni­ty and inno­va­tion. It’s basi­cal­ly the Some­where ver­sus Any­where divi­sion expressed in beer.

Those on the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al divide from the Cur­mud­geon prob­a­bly would­n’t dis­agree with the idea but might spin it dif­fer­ent­ly: ‘Real ale is inward and back­ward look­ing, while craft beer points for­ward and out­ward!’ At any rate, he might be on to some­thing.

A portrait of Bim looking pensive.

Jor­dan St. John at St John’s Wort, one of the co-authors of the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, paints a por­trait of Luc ‘Bim’ Lafontaine, a revered Cana­di­an brew­er whose new ven­ture is strain­ing under the weight of expec­ta­tion:

[Peo­ple] talk about the brew­ery before the open­ing in mes­sian­ic terms; as though Bim walked into town across Lake Ontario. At one end of the spec­trum a local wag claims on twit­ter that the beer is ter­ri­ble and two of the first three batch­es should have been drain poured. At the oth­er end is a wine pro­fes­sion­al who pro­claims the Eng­lish style IPA the best he has ever had. On both ends is the response to the expec­ta­tion that God­speed will some­how redeem the Toron­to beer scene, as if it need­ed it… Bim has been try­ing not to look at the reviews although they fil­ter in. There are some con­cerns about the pric­ing. $3.75 a can for 355ml seems high to the pub­lic… The oth­er gripe is about the styles of beer being brewed. There are peo­ple review­ing it who are will­ing to dis­miss a third of the nascent brewery’s pro­duc­tion because there is a Dort­munder Lager involved. I know through the rumour mill that Bim has spent much of the last two years drink­ing Spat­en Munich Helles.

Final­ly, the Beer Nut high­lights the exis­tence of Essence of Craft:

11 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 8 July 2017: London Fields, St Ives, Anywhere”

  1. Those on the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al divide from the Cur­mud­geon prob­a­bly wouldn’t dis­agree with the idea but might spin it dif­fer­ent­ly: ‘Real ale is inward and back­ward look­ing, while craft beer points for­ward and out­ward!’

    It’s a bit more com­pli­cat­ed than that. As a Cor­byn-sup­port­ing Labour Par­ty mem­ber I’m on the oth­er side of most polit­i­cal divides you care to name from the Cur­mud­geon (although I often agree with him about ‘pub­lic health’). But Marx­ist real ale fans are noth­ing new, and I broad­ly agree with the oppo­si­tion between ‘real ale’ and ‘craft’ in that quote – with­out revers­ing the signs as you sug­gest. On the third hand, I think the Somewheres/Anywheres oppo­si­tion he alludes to is basi­cal­ly pif­fle, so per­haps we don’t agree after all…

    1. I had delib­er­ate­ly couched the divi­sion in neu­tral terms, where­as “Real ale is inward and back­ward look­ing, while craft beer points for­ward and out­ward!” is loaded. I don’t think it can be denied that real ale vs craft rep­re­sents a cul­tur­al dif­fer­ence, not mere­ly one of pro­duc­tion process or even age.

  2. Lon­don Fields” is of course the name of a nov­el by Mar­tin Amis, which I sus­pect will be remem­bered when Julian De Vere White­way-Wilkin­son and his trans­gres­sions are long since for­got­ten. Even if Carls­berg acquire no actu­al brew­ing plant, it’s a very strong brand name with a lot of London‑y asso­ci­a­tions which I think will prove to be a sound invest­ment for them.

    1. Have you read it? AIUI it’s rather a weird and creepy book, whose cen­tral char­ac­ter is a woman who picks up men with the aim of get­ting her­self mur­dered. I think ‘Lon­don’ is doing the work brand­ing-wise – next best thing to get­ting Cam­den!

      (Who have we got? There’s Stock­port, of course, and I think there is a (newish) Man­ches­ter Brew­ing Com­pa­ny – and who could for­get Chorl­ton? Hard to see the big guys going for any of those, though.)

  3. I won­der whether the St Ives guide will have ‘Spoons newest Cor­nish branch in it ? As shown in the ‘Spoons 2017 Direc­to­ry !
    Shame that the proof-read­er did­n’t realise that there is a St Ives in Cam­bridgeshire, which is the true loca­tion of that branch.

    1. Lon­don Fields is a park in Hack­ney – the brew­ery must orig­i­nal­ly have been set up fair­ly near. There is also a near­by rail­way sta­tion of the same name. Brodies have had a beer called Lon­don Fields for some time and it is one of the bet­ter sell­ers in their William IV pub – I’m not sure, but their use of the name could pre-date the LF brew­ery. I doubt if mat­ters such as pos­si­ble trade­mark infringe­ment would have both­ered the orig­i­nal LF own­ers but Carls­berg’s lawyers may want to check that one out.

      1. The brew­ery has had the trade­mark EU014428668 since 2015 cov­er­ing beer and some oth­er drinks, so that look pret­ty sol­id – I get the impres­sion that brew­eries tend not to spend the £300 and 2 months of bureau­cra­cy to reg­is­ter the trade­mark for a beer unless it real­ly takes off as a core beer, so not much to wor­ry about there. Brodies might have been able to oppose the appli­ca­tion if they’d been brew­ing the beer when the appli­ca­tion was made, but not much they can prac­ti­cal­ly do about it now, I imag­ine Carls­berg’s lawyers will be in touch.…

        1. I was in Brodies’ William IV pub last night and asked the man­ag­er if I was right in think­ing that their Lon­don Fields beer pre­dat­ed the found­ing of Lon­don Fields Brew­ery? He said it did, by about two months. He did­n’t say more, but I got the impres­sion that some­thing had induced them to check their records.…

          It does seem to me that extra legal costs are yet anoth­er bur­den on small brew­eries try­ing to pro­tect their brands. Brew­dog seem the most active, at least in pub­lic, but then they nev­er seem to miss a chance for pub­lic­i­ty and one of their founders has some law in his back­ground.

          1. Tee­hee.

            I don’t think Brew­dog are any more active than any­one else in par­tic­u­lar, it’s just a way of life for big com­pa­nies that have brands that are prof­itable enough to be worth pro­tect­ing – the cost of reg­is­ter­ing a trade­mark might rep­re­sent the entire prof­it from a one-off brew from a micro. It’s just the likes of Brew­dog are put under more scruti­ny – but I’ve not seen any­thing in pub­lic about the clash between Mer­lin and Rob­bies over “Wiz­ard” for instance. The fact is that there’s only so many words that work as beer names, and they’re bound to get used quite a bit (vari­a­tions on “there she gose” for instance), now we’re in a world where there’s what, 20,000 beers in the UK and many more over­seas, there’s bound to be clash­es.

  4. Brodies seem to have a lot of beers named after var­i­ous parts of North and East Lon­don that are now home to micro­brew­eries. I won­der if that was the plan.

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