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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