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

A pint of beer glowing against dark wood.

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

  1. Andy is right: Pop­py­land were def­i­nite­ly the first. Mar­tin War­ren even trav­elled to Voss in Nor­way to taste the orig­i­nals and col­lect his own strain of kveik (from John Nornes).

  2. 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…

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