20th Century Pub

Everything We Wrote in August 2017: Lager Louts, Vapeman, Backstreet Boozers

August 2017 -- psychedelic poster design

That was a pretty decent month with lots of new stuff covering all the angles from history to tasting notes via the usual navel-gazing.

We missed a few days here and there because, e.g., we were in London for GBBF, but even then we kept up a flow of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts.

If you think this lot, along with quite a few Patreon exclusive blog posts, is worth a couple of quid a month do consider subscribing.

ILLUSTRATION: "Kill the Bill".

The big event was our #beerylongreads piece on the lager lout phenomenon — something we’d been meaning to put together for ages and which made us realise how little we knew. This will be the basis of a chapter if we ever get to write that big book about lager in Britain that’s on the possible projects list.

Sketch of two people at a pub bar.
Kaffe Fassett 1966 illustrations were reused in 1971 but this is one of the additional pictures contributed by Vici Williams.

Having said that, we actually started the month by picking apart a guidebook to London from 1971, pulling out all the juicy nuggets relating to pubs and beer:

The search for a good pub is now no longer based on atmosphere, but on the quality of its beer. This is quite sensible, for the pubs with the best atmosphere are those where knowledgeable drinkers drink. Atmosphere was always a doubtful criterion, since its quality can only be appreciated in time, and those pubs with one obtrusive enough to be noted at once tend to superficial or pretentious. What good drinker anyway cares for the surroundings that mist before him as he savours the tang of a well-kept beer?

Auguste Escoffier in pop art colours.

We came across the ‘rules’ of Nouvelle Cuisine, the culinary movement that swept France and then the world in the 1970s and 80s, and wondered if they reflected similar thinking in the world of beer at the same time, during the micro-brewing revolution.

Detail from a mock advertisement by Nick Tolson.

We announced that our new book exists as a physical object. Received wisdom in marketing says that you hold everything back and then launch with a BANG on one day so, of course, we’ve been trickling bits of info about it for months until everyone is fed up.

Some reviews are now in (Pub Curmudgeon, Roger Protz, Tim Thomas at West Berks CAMRA (PDF)) if you need more info before you commit to buying a copy.

In a post entitled ‘Breaking out of the Rut’ we issued a bit of a call to action: don’t keep going to the same pubs, drinking the same beers — try something new and see what happens.

Bailey finally tracked down a pub in Greenwich, South London, that he last visited more than a decade ago and got warm fuzzy feelings from the experience, and the beer.

The cover of the Beer Map of Great Britain, 1970s.

We expressed some frustration at the difficulty of actually buying some beers that seem to exist only on social media. Where can we actually buy your beer?

There were some interesting responses to this, including from one brewer by private message from (edited for anonymity):

I used to check in to every pub I delivered to telling followers what I was delivering. I stopped because I found out some competitors were going in after me and undercutting me.

The Wellington: close until further notiice.

Pondering pubs again, prompted by a Twitter discussion, we wondered whether it might be a particular type of pub that is under threat — the backstreet boozer.

There were a couple of Pub Life posts — a thing we’ve been doing for ages but only just realised is a kind of ongoing series. First, an account of a low-level con-man, and then of a vape-fuelled game of Cards Against Humanity that took a dark turn.

(We’ve done a few of these on Patreon, too, one of which we made public the other day if you fancy taking a look.)

We also had a new instalment in another ongoing series, namely Questions & Answers. This time, it was a query about etiquette:

“What’s the etiquette when you know more about beer than bar staff? They’re probably passionate about beer, about craft. Maybe they’re younger and hipper than you. Sometimes they think that because they behind a bar they’re experts on beer, but drop clangers like telling you that Ekuanot is a brand new experimental hop rather than a rename of Equinox. What do you do? How do you communicate that they’re wrong about something without being boorish?”

In 100 words we reflected on the difference between murky beer and muddy beer. Mud, for us, is a step too far.

We kicked off a new round of Magical Mystery Pour with a review of Long Man Best Bitter, a perfectly decent, er, best bitter.

And finally we ended the month with a bit of a coup: tasting notes on a 47-year-old beer that Bailey bought for £1.50 at a car boot sale in Somerset. (Spoiler: it was great.)