Beer history News

News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 September 2017: Pils, Pepys, Pricing

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that grabbed us in the last week, from Belgian Pils to China Ale.

Last week we mentioned in passing the launch of Drinkers’ Voice and expressed our instinctive doubts about the whole business. Now the Pub Curmudgeon has attempted to make the case in a passionate post on his blog:

Drinkers’ Voice as a matter of policy does not accept any industry funding, to ensure both the reality and the perception of independence. It speaks for the consumers of alcoholic drinks, not the producers. What it does have is a certain amount of involvement from CAMRA, which has led some to conclude that it is effectively a CAMRA front organisation… In recent years, there have been several motions passed at CAMRA AGMs urging the organisation to take a stronger line against the anti-drink lobby. However, CAMRA by definition does not represent all drinkers, and can all too easily be accused of glossing over the negative effects of alcohol in seeking to promote beer and pubs. There also remains a somewhat delusional tendency within its ranks who believe that the type of drinking that CAMRA supports can in some way be presented as less harmful. So the decision was taken that the objective could be better achieving by helping with the creation of an independent campaigning body.

We’ll keep pondering this and perhaps put our heads above the battlements with an actual blog post on the subject. Or (checks comments from last time we got involved in this kind of debate) maybe not.

Inside Brasseries Atlas.

For his website Brussels Beer City Eoghan Walsh has written about an abandoned brewery in the Belgian capital which reflects the changes and challenges of the past century:

As breweries shut down or moved their production outside of Brussels from the 1960s on, most of their buildings were torn down to make room for an expanding Brussels. The few that survived this destruction were converted into art galleries, performance spaces, or hotels… These are the neighbourhoods – in Anderlecht and Molenbeek – that comprised “le petit Manchester belge”. Keep going past streets with names like Birmingham, Liverpool, Industry. Past the faded signs on crumbling brick buildings advertising “Ford” and “Coke”. Past the old Moulart maltings complex that has been renovated as an interactive centre and a business incubator. And there, just along from the wrought iron rail bridge, is the art deco brewing tower of Grandes Brasseries Atlas.

The post is accompanied by lots of lovely photographs just one of which is reproduced above.

A sea of wooden casks.

For the Morning Advertiser Sophie Atherton, author of last year’s Cask Report, investigates the always stimulating issue of the price of cask ale in a hyper-competitive market where, as St Austell’s Roger Ryman is quote as saying, ‘profit… is wafer thin’. Many well-worn points crop up in her interviews with brewers, some of them of the ‘Well, they would say that’ variety, but the overall argument is compelling:

The most sensible approach is to make sure you know and understand your market and then adapt cask prices to that. If you have customers who will happily pay £5 for a perfectly served pint of a cask beer they love, as long as it reflects what it cost your pub to buy, why wouldn’t you charge that amount? Some licensees might fear a backlash but it’s an approach that’s already being practised and, as long as your cask ale is served to the highest standards, one that works.

A detail from the cover of drinking with Pepys.

At A Good Beer Blog AKA A Better Beer Blog Alan McLeod continues his scholarly exploration of lost British beer styles, or sub-types, or regional specialities, coming up with a thrilling list via Samuel Pepys:

A quick search via Lord Goog for various phrases in his diary shows he records drinking Lambeth Ale on at least 8, 10 and 12 June 1661 as well as 27 April 1663. He had Northdown ale on 27 August and 13 September in 1660 as well as 1 January 1660/61. Margate ale is mentioned on 7 May, 27 August and 26 October in 1660. He had Hull Ale on 4 November 1660. He also had Derby ale and China ale. There are many references to Mum, buttered ale, wormwood ale. Bottled beer, too. In fact, he complains on 23 May 1666 of an eye ailment due to “my late change of my brewer, and having of 8s. beer.” A man of wide and varied taste. Notice, however, that there are no references to March ale or October ale according to the Google search. Is that correct? Maybe these were old fashioned labels by the 1660s.

Gose in Goslar, 2008.

Here’s a sharply made point from Ron Pattinson at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins based on an interesting source document: if your Gose isn’t punishingly sour, you’re doing it wrong. (At least in historical terms.)

A can of Estrella Galicia.

Rachael Smith at Look at Brew has a new series of posts under the collective title of ‘Beer Tokens’. The second, posted this week, is a pleasingly lyrical reflection on the nostalgic power of everyday beers:

The smooth bitterness of a can of Boddington’s not so stealthily pinched by my school friend from her dad’s stash at a family party.

The cans of warm Carling and pints of Tuborg at Reading festival, tainted by the waft from chemical toilets but washed down with a soundtrack second to none.

From Alec Latham comes news of an interesting beer from Redchurch — is it the first commercially available British beer to be brewed with Kveik?

More news: Magic Rock beer will soon be available via Marks & Spencer supermarkets. The range will include Salty Kiss, one of our favourite British beers, and we’d guess the first Gose (debates over stylistic accuracy aside) to be sold as a core product in a UK supermarket. (Huddersfield Examiner)

Brewery takeover news: Australian brewery 4 Pines has been acquired by AB-InBev as reported on their own company website.

And finally here’s an excellent cartoon from Tom Gauld (via @TimNoakes via @Will_Hawkes) which resonated with us having spent several years moping about looking at old pubs.

6 replies on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 23 September 2017: Pils, Pepys, Pricing”

Booths has several Magic Rocks, including Salty Kiss. It’s noticeable that Booths have contracted their beer range a bit after the great flowering of a year or two ago, I thought at the time it showed more enthusiasm than commercial reality. They’re still way better than any of the other supermarkets though.

Initial thoughts from the Canterbury green hop festival – it’s been a big harvest in Kent this year, with reports of gardens having to pick a week early because posts were collapsing under the weight of hops. Brewers seemed to like them, but I must admit I haven’t quite had a standout beer – although I’ve been saving most of the Goldings for today. The early harvest means that more hop varieties have been ready in time for the festival, although Bullion is oddly AWOL. Green Challenger continues to impress – it’s probably the variety that benefits most from brewing green, you get lots of marmalade that isn’t normally there.

There’s also been several beers with significant flaws – maybe I’m just getting a bit 6-ish, maybe I’ve just got more experience of what green hop beers should taste like, but it seems more of a problem than previous years. I try and cut some slack because brewers are using unknown ingredients and having to rush beer onto the bar, but even some of the bigger names were not immune this year.

Anyway, got to go, those green EKGs won’t drink themselves…

Comments are closed.