News, Nuggets & Longreads 16 September 2017: Beavertown, Burials, Biggsy

The Pulteney Arms, Bath.

Here’s everything beer- and pub-related that caught our eye in the last week, from viking funerals to mysterious pressure groups.

Josh Far­ring­ton at Beer and Present Dan­ger gives us his view of the much-hyped Beaver­town beer fes­ti­val and uses it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on his expe­ri­ence of fes­ti­vals more gen­er­al­ly:

I can still pin­point the exact moment I real­ly got into beer. It was 2005, win­ter, and I was look­ing for some­thing to do with a group of friends, when we wan­dered into a sea­son­al beer fes­ti­val organ­ised by CAMRA and Cam­bridge RAG. I still remem­ber every sound and image from that evening – the fug of steam after walk­ing in from the cold driz­zle, the hiss of waxed jack­ets from the heav­ing crowd, and the ver­mil­ion slop of chilli being ladled onto baked pota­toes the size of my fist. Then there were the beers. Row upon row of met­al casks, arranged around the hall, with strange, evoca­tive names taped to the front in clear plas­tic wal­lets. I was so stunned, I even called my dad to tell him where him was, as if still seek­ing approval or praise. Then I pro­ceed­ed to order halves of every strong stout they had and got crush­ing­ly, irre­deemably drunk.

On the same sub­ject Rebec­ca Pate at Brew­ing East offers an enthu­si­as­tic but not uncrit­i­cal assess­ment with com­ments that echo our post about the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val from last week:

The crux of where Beaver­town suc­ceed­ed and recent fes­ti­vals have under­whelmed has every­thing to do with the details; the venue, still equipped with giant aban­doned print­ing press­es, brimmed with char­ac­ter and food options had been care­ful­ly vet­ted. The ener­gy of the crowd was pal­pa­ble, and even for those not pre­pared to com­mit them­selves to a lengthy queue and instead float­ed between stalls, none of the beers dis­ap­point­ed. Despite the size of the event, it was­n’t soul­less.


Viking Hall at Borg, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

You might have seen recent some­what sen­sa­tion­al­ist cov­er­age of the dis­cov­ery of the grave of a female viking war­rior in Swe­den. Now Dr Christi­na Wade (@braciatrix) offers her take on the sto­ry, with added beer:

Funer­al beer, or inher­i­tance beer, is well attest­ed to in the medieval legal texts of Nor­way. The GulathingsLov, a series of medieval law tracts stat­ed ‘And when men are dead and the heir will make beer after (them)’. Dur­ing the Chris­t­ian peri­od this would become known as såluøl or soul beer, and includ­ed the role of a priest in the course of the cer­e­monies… [Essen­tial­ly] the heir or heirs of the deceased were to com­mis­sion a funer­al beer and it was not until they had con­sumed this ale and made their oaths that they could offi­cial­ly claim their inher­i­tance.


Gig advert: 'Biggsy'.
SOURCE: Pints & Pubs

Adam at Pints and Pubs is con­tin­u­ing his mis­sion to drink in every pub in Cam­bridge gen­er­at­ing one odd­ly fas­ci­nat­ing post after anoth­er – part review, part reflec­tion, and part his­to­ry les­son. Our atten­tion was par­tic­u­lar­ly grabbed this week by his com­men­tary on the Ship, a post-war pub with a tough rep­u­ta­tion:

The Ship is the only pub in Cam­bridge whose name pro­vokes sharp intakes of breath, gen­er­al­ly fol­lowed by anec­dotes of phys­i­cal harm or the ever-present threat of vio­lence… Per­haps the most amus­ing and truth­ful tale I’d been told about the Ship came from a for­mer land­lord of a near­by pub. The land­lord of the Ship at that time invit­ed him to come and vis­it, and one day he decid­ed to take him up on the offer. On enter­ing the pub, every­one turned round and stared at him, and he recog­nised every face – he’d banned them all from his own pub! The land­lord swift­ly invit­ed him behind the bar, through to an exit at the rear of the pub, and he scarpered.


Pitfield Bitter label/pumpclip
SOURCE: Pit­field Brew­ery web­site

For the Hack­ney Gazette (ad-rid­dled local news­pa­per web­site – sor­ry!) Emma Bartholomew looks at the his­to­ry of Pit­field Brew­ery, one of the more inter­est­ing of the ear­ly micros, and one we’ve always meant to get round to writ­ing about our­selves. (Via @BreweryManual)


Good and bad news: via Twit­ter DM we’ve got some bad news to add to our reg­is­ter, and some good to bal­ance it. First, a Glouces­ter­shire brew­ery we’d nev­er heard of, Com­bined Brew­ers (AKA Cotswold Spring) seems to have gone into admin­is­tra­tion (Insid­er). Mean­while, Beer­craft, a new craft beer shop, has opened in Bath (Bath Chron­i­cle).

Near­er to us, Bot­tles & Books in Bris­tol offi­cial­ly opens today sell­ing comics, cider and craft beer (Face­book).


A new edi­tion of CAM­RA’s Good Beer Guide was released this week. As usu­al it comes with a slew of news, facts and fig­ures saved up by CAMRA for the occa­sion. For exam­ple, we now know that by their reck­on­ing there are 1,704 active brew­eries, up from 1,540 this time last year, mean­ing that growth remains pret­ty con­stant. (The End is Nigh sand­wich boards must go away for anoth­er year.)

Dun­can Mack­ay, who lives and dies by the Guide as a ded­i­cat­ed pub-tick­er, offers a thought­ful review here, and also men­tions Roger Protz’s retire­ment from the edi­tor’s seat after many years.

(Dis­clo­sure: we are paid to write for CAMRA on an ongo­ing basis.)


Here’s an odd bit of news that we’re still pro­cess­ing: Drinkers’ Voice, a new con­sumer cam­paign group intend­ed to counter the alco­hol con­trol lob­by, was launched this week:

Through every media chan­nel pos­si­ble, they will speak up for nor­mal respon­si­ble drinkers, cel­e­brate the joys of alco­hol and rebut the myths spread by those whose agen­da is to restrict the avail­abil­i­ty of alco­hol and increase its price, so that it becomes inac­ces­si­ble.

It’s pre­sent­ed, as lob­by­ing groups often are, as an inde­pen­dent grass roots move­ment but it does­n’t take much to find out that the founders include the Chair and CEO of the Cam­paign for Real Ale.

Our gut feel­ing – first instincts – is that the way to com­bat shad­owy think-tanks and lob­by­ing groups isn’t more shad­owy think-tanks and lob­by­ing groups.


Final­ly, here’s anoth­er sign of the times from Twit­ter (ver­i­fied):

9 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 16 September 2017: Beavertown, Burials, Biggsy”

  1. Glad you picked up Adam’s post on the Ship, one of the last real estate pubs in Cam­bridge. The duck in the play area was as com­pelling an image as that of Big­gsy !

  2. That’s a shame that Drinker’s Voice is com­ing across as shad­owy. I had a bit of inside gen on the set-up and, while CAMRA has ini­ti­at­ed it, the idea is to try and gath­er as broad a move­ment as pos­si­ble, beyond CAM­RA’s remit. I guess they reck­on if it were pre­sent­ed as a CAMRA cam­paign that would be hard­er to do.

    1. Yes, while CAMRA have pro­vid­ed a cer­tain amount of assis­tance and seed­corn fund­ing to set up Drinkers’ Voice, it cer­tain­ly isn’t just a “CAMRA front” organ­i­sa­tion, and the inten­tion is that it should take flight on its own. I assume as CAMRA mem­bers you (B&B) have access to Dis­course and so can read the vig­or­ous dis­cus­sion on the sub­ject.

      And, if this isn’t the way to counter the pub­lic health lob­by, what is?

      1. As the stan­dard way issues are pre­sent­ed on the tele­vi­sion and radio is to have a speak­er from each side I think Drinkers Voice is well placed to counter the alco­hol con­trol lob­by.

        1. I can under­stand why you don’t want to get active­ly involved in forums, but Dis­course pro­vides a lot of inter­est­ing back­ground to what’s going on in CAMRA, and I’d say it’s worth cre­at­ing an account just to read par­tic­u­lar threads, such as the one on Drinkers’ Voice. Col­in Valen­tine is cer­tain­ly pret­ty forth­right in his jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of it.

          Any­way, I’ve now writ­ten a blog­post on the sub­ject 😀

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