News, Nuggets & Longreads 30 September 2017: Bang Chang, Meerts, Cork Mild

A scotch egg in a pub.

Here’s all the writing about beer and pubs that got our brainboxes revving in the past week, with bulletins from Bhutan to Runcorn.

The Cask Marque Cask Report was published this week (PDF) written this year by Rosie Davenport. We’re still digesting it, and, like others, debating its value, but in the meantime James Beeson has written an excellent summary with additional industry comment for the Morning Advertiser:

The headline statistic from this year’s report highlights that sales of cask beer are down by 5% over the past six years, and 3.8% in the past year alone. While it is undoubtedly disappointing, and indeed worrying, to see cask suffering a sharp decline in sales, this is symptomatic of a wider decline in beer drinking across the UK, with keg beer and lager also falling by 25% and 11% respectively.


Brewing in an outdoor kitchen, Bhutan.

For Beer Advocate** Martin Thibault has visited the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to explore its farmhouse brewing culture:

So, Bang Chang and Sin Chang, the nation’s two types of farmhouse ale, are often made from 100 percent organic raw wheat cultivated by each household. In some cases, even the yeast culture itself is coaxed from these same fields… Some of these farmers not only grow their cereal and brew from it, they also make their own yeast bagels from bits of dried bark, leaves, and powdered maize or wheat, which are cooked and solidified. Aun Namgay, a Scharchop woman from Radhi, a hamlet in the country’s sparsely populated east, explains that her newly baked cakes need to be coated in an older ‘mother’ bagel for the fresh ones to be truly effective.


"Meerts" (a mocked up sign)

For Draft magazine* Kate Bernot wrote about ‘meerts’, a sub-type of lambic that’s new to us and, apparently, almost everyone else, and which American brewers are now exploring as a marketable style:

Meerts was historically a beer brewed from the second runnings of a lambic, which made it lower in alcohol (generally around 3-4%). It was typically served ‘fresh’, only a few months’ old in comparison to lambics’ years of resting time in wood… The drinkability factor… is perhaps the beer’s greatest draw. At about 4% ABV and with only a year or so of time in wood… it feels refreshing.

In a follow-up Tweet, Belgian beer specialist Christopher Barnes pointed out that Boon brew a meerts which turns out to have a whiff of intrigue around it.


Lady's Well Brewery, James J. Murphy & Co., Cork.
Lady’s Well Brewery, James J. Murphy & Co., Cork.

A little niche, perhaps, but we were interested by Liam’s report of his research into the the history of the Lady’s Well Brewery, Cork, AKA ‘Murphy’s’, at BeerFoodTravel:

[On] 12th of January 1857… [an] advertisement appeared… [that] seems to make it clear exactly what was being brewed at the time — no less that seven ales and five porters including an Imperial Ale and two imperial stouts! And there’s that Cork Mild – with a capital ‘M’ this time as well as an X Ale and XX Ale. I don’t have access to any books written specifically on the brewery but other books and most online sources state they opened with just two beer types, this was clearly not the case… Unfortunately this range does not seem to have lasted too long, as an advertisement in November of the same year list just XX Ale, XX Stout, X Stout and Porter available.

That’s a list that makes us shake our heads and wonder how the current owners of the Murphy’s brand (Heineken) can be missing such a golden opportunity.


Walking between pubs along a public footpath.

Kirst Walker at Lady Sinks the Booze (the best name for a blog anywhere in the world right now, by the way) provides a blow-by-blow account of a pub crawl around the surviving Victorian pubs of Runcorn which is as fun as it is educational:

I go to the Grapes every Tuesday for their smashing pub quiz hosted by the smashing Sam Pele Trantum, but on Saturdays the place takes on an air of the working man’s club. Free sandwiches, packed to the rafters, a lady in her sixties constantly asking you for a pound for something or other (bingo, shut the box, open the box, play your cards right, football card, half a mild for Wilf because it’s his birthday). We arrived just before peak time and we were obviously sat in someone’s regular seat because we attracted some quite venomous looks. The Grapes apparently has a ghost from when it was a slaughterhouse so we didn’t hang about.


Kaleigh has been pondering the future of beer festivals and in particular the benefits of the all-you-can-eat payment method, which doesn’t come naturally to we Brits:

I think it… encourages you to try a wider variety of beers. If I was paying for individual beers and there was one I wasn’t too sure of, I probably wouldn’t try it but at an all-in festival I’d go for it – especially as the measures are smaller than your standard beer festival so you feel less guilt about pouring it (I went for a beer at MBCC from Icelandic brewery Borg which featured malts smoked over sheep shit and detested it, but I could simply pour it and get something I preferred, which I did).


David Bascombe moved to the US from the UK a few years ago and now offers some wistful conclusions on how American bars differ from English pubs:

I like the choice I have here when it comes to drinking, but I miss the comfort and anonymity of a British Pub. Eventually I’ll get back to the UK, and having gotten used to the way things are here, the world of the British Pub will seem strange and quaint. I think I’ll always choose a lack of choice and comfort and atmosphere over a wide choice and a lack of atmosphere though.


Consolidation news: via @JapanBeerTimes we hear that Yo-Ho Brewing Company is taking over Ginga Kogen, though we can’t find any commentary in English beyond that one Tweet.


UK Brewery closure news: Yates’s of Cumbria is shutting up shop having failed to find a buyer. (Via @HardknottDave who also offers some very personal observations on the news.)


Finally, here’s a real life version of all those Viz Top Tips about craft beer:


* Ugh, these disclosure things get complicated, which is why we’ve moved them out of the way down here. Right, so, we’ve never written for Draft but have written for All About Beer with which it recently merged.

** We occasionally write for Beer Advocate.